India’s Electric-Car Plans could Leave Trump & US in Dust

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

India’s announcement that it wants to have its automobile fleet go completely electric by 2030 is a bigger deal than it seems on the surface, if in fact the government follows through.

Power Minister Piyush Goya said Tuesday at the Confederation of Indian Industry,

“We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way. We are going to make electric vehicles self- sufficient like UJALA. The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country.”

Goya also said that the Indian government would be willing to subsidize electric automobiles as an infant industry, just as it had the Maruti car, which now is profitable.

The government is driven by several considerations. First, India is facing an extremely serious urban pollution problem. When I was there last year the mayor of New Delhi made a rule that cars even-numbered license plates had to alternate day by day with those with odd-numbered plates, to cut down on traffic and deadly emissions.

Second, India has little petroleum of its own and must import it, which is a drain on its economy.

Third, the Indian government genuinely believes that climate change is a danger to the country (which is correct; some climate models see India’s fertile Gangetic plain turning into a dustbowl as the global temperature warms).

Indian technology, with the possible exception of software, isn’t usually considered a world-changer. But Goya’s plan, if implemented really would alter the history of humankind. Technology falls in price and becomes more efficient through volume production. Moreover, the United States no longer rules the roost in the automobile industry, and what India and China do, with 2/5s of the world’s population between them, will have enormous impact on the cost and size of batteries.

India’s population is roughly 1.3 billion. That of the US is 320 million.

India has some 70 million motor vehicles on the road.

The United States has over 250 million cars and trucks on the road.

But, with over 3 times the population of the United States and with a population that is rapidly urbanizing and entering the middle class, the potential for future car sales in India is just enormous, dwarfing the US.

And if all those tens of millions of new cars are electric, that would change everything. Batteries would shrink and become more efficient.

In the US, some 540,000 electric cars have been sold.

But if India starts selling 5 million electric vehicles a year, in a decade that would be 50 million, 100 times as many as Americans have ever bought! I don’t care what Trump or Exxon-Mobile or the Koch brothers do, that would be game over for petroleum. Because if India can make an electric car ordinary Indians can afford, then all of Asia and Latin America will be interested.

Chinese consumers bought over 500,000 electric cars last year– as many as Americans have bought since the beginning of time. If Chinese consumers go on buying at that rate, in 10 years they will have purchased 5 million electric cars. The Chinese government is so far not as dedicated to the electric car as some Indian cabinet members are. But Chinese companies have designed and manufactured several practical EVs.

China may in fact lead the electric vehicle revolution. It has already made engineering advances in this field, and is working on electric SUVs, a model that might appeal to Americans.

If we take Asia into account, we can confidently predict that over the next decade and more several million electric vehicles will be sold, putting the American market in the shade.

The Chevy Bolt may catch on, and so might the Tesla 3. But if the US doesn’t get its act together and stop listening to Trump, the Kochs etc., people may end up driving Indian and Chinese electric cars


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Mahindra e20 Plus City Smart electric car | First Impressions | Motown India

15 Responses

  1. Its a pity that the production of electric cars hasn’t been standardized from the beginning. When changing a gas bottle for a motor home, caravan or other use, one takes the empty bottle to a supplier who exchanges it for a full one. The cost of the bottle maintenance etc is reflected in the price of the exchange. An empty bottle has to be produced in order to get a refill. If electric car batteries had a similar arrangement the problem of long recharging times could be eliminated. Logically, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work if motor manufactures could get their act together. They’ve done it with gas bottles which are pretty much the same the world over, so it can be done.

    • Actually, most companies on earth have standardized on either the Tesla cell or the18650 cell as the basic building block for their power banks. because both are plentiful and getting cheaper by the day.

  2. Ha, I appreciate the forward thinking, but this is a bit much. Love to see those millions of cars plugged into India’s grid. Also I can see the NGO flooding to SE Asia in 2050 to help deal with the used battery contamination crisis.

    • The value of the used batteries is so great that people are already working on the economics of recycling and repurposing them. Generally an EV battery is considered ready to be replaced when it’s down to 85% of original capacity. Based on Tesla real-world data, that appears to be over 100,000 miles of use. That means that when the battery is removed, it could well be used for a variety of other things.

      As for India’s grid, Indians are taking matters into their own hands. Search for the many stories on solar utility projects in India as well as some on individual installations.

      • And those numbers are getting even better, from an article published yesterday link to

        “If made into a car battery pack, 1,200 cycles would translate to roughly 300,000 miles (480,000 km) – meaning that a battery pack could still retain about 95% of its original energy capacity after ~300,000 miles – or 25 years at the average 12,000 miles per year.”

    • Charging will soon be “free” due to massive implementation of solar and wind energy. As India and China implement solar and wind energy, the costs will follow the usual technology “hockey stick” adoption curve.

      As for the batteries, it is well known that Li-ion battery banks typically have only one one or two standard 18650 cells go bad. So the other good cells can be recycled into new battery banks (lots of home power-wall DIY folks are already doing this)

  3. As I see it, the physics and chemistry of batteries means much greater energy density is most unlikely so smaller means less range.

    Rapid charge may be feasible.

    • This is somewhat true. Based on my discussions with battery engineers (I used to design laptops and other portable electronics), the energy density of Li-ion is close to maximum we can safely do. Other batteries can be very dangerous to humans.

      BUT . . .

      Just as the computer engineers have come up with creative ways to manage energy consumption, I think transportation engineers will be able to mitigate the lack of more advanced batteries.

      For example, Tesla has done some very creative things with aluminum and light-weight composites to minimize energy usage.

      • Spyguy have you seen this…
        Goodenough’s latest breakthrough, completed with Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, is a low-cost all-solid-state battery that is noncombustible and has a long cycle life (battery life) with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge. The engineers describe their new technology in a recent paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science
        The researchers demonstrated that their new battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries. A battery cell’s energy density gives an electric vehicle its driving range, so a higher energy density means that a car can drive more miles between charges. The UT Austin battery formulation also allows for a greater number of charging and discharging cycles, which equates to longer-lasting batteries, as well as a faster rate of recharge (minutes rather than hours). link to

        • I hope this scales . . .


          I have seen far to many energy storage technologies that work great in the lab but either can not scale to billions of units (manufacturing problems, etc) or have unanticipated consequences when used in global volumes.

          For example, a small number of internal combustion engine powered vehicles don’t do much harm, but billions of ICE type vehicles are a MAJOR problem for humanity.

          There is a MAJOR need for super high density energy storage that is safe for humans, but the solution will have to be extremely cheap to make otherwise it will not be competitive, especially for home usage (powerwalls).

  4. Didn’t the Germans announce a similar plan a while ago? Anyhow, I just don’t see that US care makers are going to start building gas guzzlers. They surely know that they won’t be able to export any of them, and States like California won’t allow them either.

  5. The combined ignorance, shortsightedness, and greed of the GOP, not to mention the GOP Lite Democrats, is a death sentence for the US as a functioning society. The future of all complex societies, and not just America, depends constructing a self sufficient transportation energy source and distribution system which does not rely on oil for fuel. The focus and amount of time required for a society to complete this task is an underlying global threat to all complex nations because complete enactment is in terms of decades, not years. The effective destruction of US railroads other than main lines in favor of highways has handcuffed our transportation future to roads rather than rail lines. Expanding solar PVs and wind power capability is the only current, distributed technology we have which holds the technology and manufacturing potential capable of supplying stationary and mobile energy needs. Despite its solar and wind growth, the US is a follower, not a leader in this field, as Dr Cole points out via the stated goals and investment trends of China, India, and other nations. Time is of the essence, for without enough time this goal cannot be reached.

    • The four long haul freight rail companies (yes there are only four left) are actually quietly rebuilding their rail systems so they can haul more freight, faster (double tracking). They are doing this to increase the capacity to move containers from the coasts to the interior at about 100 MPH.

      But you are correct that the USA is a follower. Part of the problem is the USA culture . . .

      – tends to no longer plan ahead. Americans tend to wait until some thing reaches critical danger then put in place a slap-dash high cost fix.

      – That is, Americans are completely unwilling to pay high enough taxes to fund massive infrastructure building. Americans prefer zero taxes to reliable, efficient infrastructure. Don’t believe this, just look at the ACTIONS of Americans, not what they say.

      – “Not invented here” syndrome. Instead of improving stuff from the rest of the world, Americans want to re-invent the wheel. In other words, basic stupid pride (hubris).

      – is obsessed with designing “magical” stuff, not making OK stuff cheaper to build and sell. This is because the culture wants the HUGE profits that come with unique stuff instead of the small but steady profits from making lots of stuff cheaply. China is cranking out billions of low cost medium efficiency solar panels and wind turbines while USA companies want to make super high efficiency stuff that can cost up to 10x to buy. The higher cost negates the higher efficiency.

      Basically the USA culture is causing Americans to make the WRONG political and technology choices.

  6. “people may end up driving Indian and Chinese electric cars”
    and even the Ford, Chrysler, and GM markings on them will be made in either country. Follow the leader, if you can’t make it, brand it.

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